Protesters call for an end to violenceHow many of these rallies have taken place over the years? I am sure the numbers reach into the hundreds. What have they accomplished? Not too much it seems.
BALTIMORE - Marching through the McCulloh Homes housing project in East Baltimore on Saturday, nearly 100 protesters took to the streets to call attention to another deadly month in one of the country’s deadliest cities.
Citing 24 murders in 24 days, Marvin “Doc” Cheatham, president of the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP, who organized the Let’s Stop the Killings and End The Violence Rally, said he was fed up with the violence.
“We are here to end the apathy,” he said “We are here to recognize the continuing violence, and we’ll keep to expressing our outrage until things change,” he said.
Yes, these rallies serve a purpose. They bring the community together and they restore a much needed feeling of unity among those in the city who want to see an end to the violence. Community leaders say some nice things and some angry things:
Delegate Carter, though it may seem like the "smart" thing to do, this is not the time to be scoring political points. Even though Baltimore's crime problems are the things of Mayoral candidate's dreams, even if every mayoral candidate from the past 25 years would have attended the protest this past Saturday it would have done nothing to end the violence in the city.
The protesters, who marched to the plaza near McCulloh Homes where a murder had occurred just days before, were joined by Israel Cason, the founder of I Can’t, We Can drug rehabilitation center in Park Heights, and state Del. Jill Carter.
Cason, who was recently notified the council he intends to seek the 6th District council seat vacated by new City Council President Stephanie Rawlings Blake, said the city needed a spiritual change.
“This is about our souls,” he said. “The root of the problem is us, we need to do something about our own condition” he said.
Carter, the only mayoral candidate to attend the rally, said the absence of other public officials was telling.
“The lives of African-Americans are simply not valued,” she said. “We need to build the morale of the people by standing with them.”
Others at the rally had opinions on how to end the violence:
Michael Makel, a resident of McCulloh Homes, said that although he is encouraged people turned out to join in the protest, the key to stopping violence was in the classroom.
“Everything starts with proper education,” he said. “Teenagers need to know there is opportunity out there, a real alternative. Then you’ll see change.”
Indeed, improving opportunities for those in violent areas is an important step in ending the violence. However, while we increase the opportunities for our "at risk" youth, we also need to take an active role in decreasing the opportunities for these youth to engage in behavior that leads to violence. This means ending our youth's access to a job in the illegal drug trade and all the criminal activities that come with such involvement. Our current policing and drug enforcement strategy has only lead to an increase in the scope, competitiveness and profitability of the illegal drug trade.
If we are serious about ending violence and saving our young people from becoming involved in violence we must attack the source of the criminal activity that breeds this violence. This is not the simple availability of illegal drugs, it is specifically the illegal market and the way we deal with this market that must change. To do this we must create a legal market for drugs that is appealing to the drug consumer. Once the consumer sees that they can get their fix in a safe, cheap, and legal way, the open air drug markets will fade almost immediately.
Suddenly, "the game" isn't very attractive anymore. The money will be gone, and with it, the allure of street life. Selling on the corner will no longer be a perceived "short path to money, success, and respect" that is has become for many misguided youth in our country.
Of course the violence will not end completely. People will still search for the "short path" the comes with robbery, theft, and murder for hire. However, the numbers will be greatly reduced. Not to mention, the street dealing values will pass away as well, with time. It is in these values, bred in desperation and without respect for the law, where we find this fetishization of senseless violence. Here we find the distortions of "respect" and "justice". Here we find the violent societal expression of our vicious, winner take all capitalism.While Mr. Makel is correct, that teenagers do need a "real alternative", he never mentions what they need an alternative to. It is unspoken, but he is talking about cycle of violence and criminal activity of which the illegal drug trade is the backbone. No matter what alternative we present to our youth, it will continue be ignored by those who are drawn to the lucrative and forever pervasive illegal drug trade.
UPDATE: DChase at Bmorenews criticizes the violent mentality that has been created by the illegal drug trade.